After a slow start to their year, Princeton’s Junior B hockey team found their stride. They battled their way through game after game, learning and bonding as a team. Some of the players learned in phenomenal leaps and bounds.
Coach Dale “Duner” Hladun believed in his players, even when others didn’t. His belief and determination brought the kids together and with small steps they scratched their way up in the rankings. They came into the play-offs with something to prove and for the first two games that is exactly what they did. The Posse went into Game 3 up 2-0 with five games left. In spite of their lead, the Kelowna Chiefs chipped away one game at a time to catch the Posse. Their last game in town, Kelowna headed home victorious up 2-3. It was a turnover that the locals hoped would not last.
The final game was a nail biter in Kelowna. At the end of the first period, the score was 2-2, at the end of the second, the score was 4-4. The Kelowna Chiefs went up by one in the third. A battle ensued right ’til the final moments. Duner pulled the goalie in the dying seconds hoping that his team could find a hole in the Chief’s goalie’s blockade, but instead an empty-netter ended the Posse year.
“I am pretty proud of the boys and how we came together especially in the play-offs,” said Duner. “We had never won a regular season game in Kelowna and Kelowna was certainly the favourite in the series, as they finished so far ahead of us.”
Players who should have been on ice were sidelined due to injuries at the most crucial time of the year. “Late season injuries certainly hampered our chances,” Duner stated. “We even lost players to injuries during the series.”
The play-off loss was disappointing to the fans and players, but for Duner, “the toughest part of the series was having to say good-bye to our warriors – especially Nick Cecconi, Brett Patchett and Derrick Delisser as they have aged out of junior hockey.”
“I feel that the overall season was a success due to a lot of hard work by our executive away from the rink,” added Duner. “We have an operating budget of over $250,000 and it takes a lot of work to keep the organization afloat. There’s an army of people behind the scenes that contribute a lot of time and effort to our club. We have to have security, music, time keepers, fundraisers, training staff and so on that are vital to a successful game night and a successful season.”
The fans always hate to see the year end, but for Duner there is always next year. “The future looks bright for the Posse. We have a strong core group of fans, an active executive, a strong amount of eligible returning players and hopefully, future local players to draw from. The Posse will be back. ”